Sun Spots – Actinic Keratosis and What You Need to Know

We all occasionally have a small spot on our face or hands that suddenly appears due to acne, bug bites, etc., and eventually it disappears. But if you notice a spot on your skin that isn’t healing, and it is constantly dry or scaly, you may have a sun spot or an Actinic Keratosis.

Actinic Keratoses usually occurs on the areas that are most commonly exposed to a lot of sun: face, lips, ears, shoulders, neck, and back of hands and forearms. Actinic Keratosis (AKs) can range in size from a tiny spot to as large as a half dollar coin in diameter. These spots are usually dark or light skin-colored but also may have colors such as tan, pink, and red. Some Actinic Keratoses may appear as small horns protruding from the skin. These spots can also have small crusty areas or scaly bumps. Occasionally these spots can itch or cause a prickly or tender sensation.

Chronic sun exposure is almost always the cause of AKs – even on cloudy days, 70% – 80% of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds! The longer you spend in the sun, the greater your chances are of developing AKs. Sun damage is more common in people over the age of 50 however there are some individuals in their 20s that are affected. People with fair skin, freckles, blonde or red hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes are typically most at risk. Men also tend to be at a little more risk than women as they are more less likely to use sunscreen or any type of sun protection

While these spots are not necessarily dangerous, occasionally Actinic Keratoses can progress to squamous cell carcinoma, so it is best to have them removed. There are several treatments for AKs such as Cryosurgery (liquid nitrogen is applied to affected area which eventually blisters and falls off), Curettage and desiccation (physician will scrape off part or all of the lesion, then apply heat or a chemical agent to stop the bleeding), or laser surgery. There are also topical and other various therapies that can help with the treatment of AKs.

The Dermatology Center of Indiana also offers several clinical trials throughout the year, including trials on AKs. To learn more about a clinical trial or to see if you qualify, please visit https://dermindy.com/ictc/

If you have any signs of Actinic Keratoses, please call our office at 317-838-9911 (Plainfield) or 317-732-8980 (Zionsville) to schedule an appointment.

Disclaimer: This blog provides general information and discussion about medical, cosmetic, mohs, and surgical dermatology. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately-licensed dermatologist or other health care worker.